Our vision for your school

Students who enroll at Sky Islands join an academic community and are expected to take part in that community respectfully and apply themselves responsibly to academic work.  We do not offer credit-recovery programs, and our curriculum is not fast-paced nor strictly individualized.  Students should be prepared to be physically active in our field work projects and intellectually challenged in our classrooms.  Parents and students alike are expected to make an active investment of time and labor in successfully meeting the student’s needs and obligations.

All Sky Islands’ students take a demanding, teacher-taught sequence of core classes in math, science, social studies, and language arts.  Electives in visual arts, guitar, culinary arts, and ecology are available.  Advanced classes in applied studies are available for those students who meet or exceed the academic and behavioral pre-requisites.  Our classes are aligned with Common Core and AZ State Standards, and integrated across the academic disciplines by grade level.  Expectations are high, but achievable, and students are held personally responsible for participating critically and within acceptable limits.

Our educational program takes science and environmental problems seriously.  As a public institution, we directly address, through facts and informed discussion, issues that concern the public domain.  They include the study of current and competing economic and political ideas, and ecological collapse.  Regardless of their path from high school, these are all concerns that 21st century students are aware of but cannot critically or actively address without tools and skills.

We are keenly aware of the controversy that surrounds an ethic of limits, and the societal push to ‘exceed our limits’.   Sky Islands is designed to be a public school that recognizes limits and established rules and norms, and is designed to work within our ‘carrying capacity’ as a vibrant public space.  We value individuals and diversity, but as a sustainable teaching/learning environment, we do not prize self-interest over community-based relationships and interactions.   Our students go on from here to college, into apprenticeships in the skilled trades, and directly into the workforce.   We encourage you to take part in a site visit and to realistically appraise your student’s needs and interests against Sky Islands’ practices and principles.

Dr Shari Popen, Founder and Director

 

SKY ISLANDS’ TEACHERS & STAFF:

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Dr Shari Popen

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Dr Shari Popen

SKY ISLANDS’ FOUNDER AND SCHOOL DIRECTOR

 

director@skyislands.org

I welcome you to Sky Islands, Tucson’s eco-conscious charter high school launched by the Blue Adobe Project in August of 2008.  Please think about your educational goals as you review this website.  Not all charter schools are alike.  Sky Islands is not a credit recovery school, and our curriculum is not fast-paced or self-paced.  Our teachers are all very highly qualified and knowledgeable, and classroom instruction is planned and led by the instructor under my guidance and in-line with State and Common Core Standards.  Students who enroll at Sky Islands join an academic community and are expected to take part in our community respectfully and responsibly.

To accomplish the goals of our academically-strong, place-based educational program, we provide students with vibrant and sometimes physically demanding activities.  Students can expect— and will be required to engage in— active inquiry and hands-on projects in class and out-of-doors.  As part of our Student Code of Conduct, Sky Islands’ students agree not to ‘opt out’ of any required course activity or project.  We also enforce academic eligibility requirements for all field trips.

In line with Arizona graduation requirements, students who seek to graduate with an Arizona high school diploma from Sky Islands must demonstrate subject-matter knowledge of content, relevant analytical skills, and real-world applications.

I have a Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Kent State University and a PhD in Educational Philosophy from SUNY Albany.  I was a faculty member at Western Washington University for 8 years, taught at Prescott College/Tucson and at NAU/Tucson in the graduate Educational Leadership program.

Prior to opening Sky Islands, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses at U of A in the College of Education for 10 years, and simultaneously taught in Political Science for 2 years.  In a previous life, I owned a bookstore in Berkeley and ran the Central Receiving operation at UC Berkeley for 5 years.

It is a thrill for me to introduce you to Sky Islands.  Our staff is experienced and smart and we work well together as a team.  Also, we laugh a lot.  When you come to Sky Islands, you can expect to see a bit of creative disorder at any time of the school day.  At least we hope so.  But also people working together quietly in small groups, on projects, or traveling off-campus.

Together we will make the world that we want to live in.

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Sandra Rosado --- and Skylar

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Sandra Rosado --- and Skylar

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

 

office@skyislands.org

I have worked in and around schools most of my adult life, in positions from School Nurse to Director of Operations for a large California school district.  Thinking I’d retired, I moved to Tucson and, as fate would have it, met Shari as she was launching Sky Islands.  The opportunity to be a part of that adventure ended my retirement plans.  I believe in the youth of today and have confidence that, if given the opportunity to make a difference, they will rise to the challenge and make a positive difference.

I am a native of Puerto Rico and speak both Spanish and English fluently.   At the tender age of two I became a world traveler, and have lived and traveled widely in and out of the United States.   Living abroad has given me an expansive look at life, a deep appreciation for its contours, and an ability to adapt.   Helping our students to acquire that openness and desire to experience the fullness of life is a good part of what I want to do at Sky Islands.  I am convinced that taking students beyond their familiar zones enriches their lives, and teaches tolerance and acceptance of diversity in ways that nothing else can.

As the Associate Director of Sky Islands since the school’s launch in 2008, I pride myself in working well with both students and parents.  I make it hard for things to get past me and firmly enforce our Code of Conduct, the glue that holds the educational program in place.  Despite my earned reputation as the disciplinarian at the school,  students do seek me out because they know I value each of them for who they are and what they bring to Sky Islands.   Our collective goal is to support and guide them towards what they want their future to be, and to provide them with the confidence, skill, and habits to get there.

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Lucas Bogard

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Lucas Bogard

SCIENCE

 

science@skyislands.org

Lucas is a founding teacher at Sky Islands and has been instrumental in developing the science curriculum and the overall integrated educational program. He has degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder in American Studies and Ethnic Studies, and is a Highly Qualified science teacher. He is a graduate of a 40-year old alternative school in Denver, and taught integrated science classes in charter schools in Tucson for 4 years prior to joining Sky Islands. Lucas is responsible for developing the astrobiology, enthnobotany, ecology, food biology and earth science courses, as well as the school gardens and many outdoor projects.

Lucas is a proficient speaker of Japanese, conversational Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and he speaks various African dialects. He is a master gardener and has introduced students to organic, healthful foods. Expect his classes to go outside and bring the outside in— science at Sky Islands will open your eyes and minds to our living world, and especially the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

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Michael Bagesse --- and Peppers

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Michael Bagesse --- and Peppers

PROJECTS AND SITE COORDINATOR

 

mbagesse@skyislands.org

Mike arrived at Sky Islands in January 2014 from Tuller School where he had been an administrator and counselor. He attended Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. Mike has played bass and guitar professionally with several bands, both locally and on tour. He is a master gardener, and has worked at B and B Cactus Farm in Tucson. Additionally, Mike received certification from the Sonoran Permaculture Guild’s Design course.

Under Mike’s direction, Sky Islands has added an Aquaponics system, planted 30 trees with a grant from Trees for Tucson, and has installed passive rainwater harvesting.  In the 2014-15 year, Mike coordinated the installation of the koi pond, 20 trees in the edible orchard, a pollinator garden, and a cactus garden. He also oversaw the creation of the major watershed restoration project in the front area of the school in 2016, and Mike will be running the agricultural end of the Garden-to-Kitchen Food Program.

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Jason Marrano

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Jason Marrano

ART

 

art@skyislands.org

Jason Marrano returns to Sky Islands for a fifth year as our full-time arts teacher.  A native of Buffalo NY, he has a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, a BA in Management from St. John Fisher College, and he studied at the UA in the MFA Fine Arts Program.  He received his Secondary Education Certification in Art from Prescott College in 2004 and has a dual certification in Career and Technical Education/CTE.  Jason has been teaching arts successfully in Tucson area high schools since 2001.

Jason is both a working artist and teacher.  He brings creativity to all of his classes and inspires his students to see the rich possibilities that the arts can bring to their lives and to the larger community.  He will be teaching drawing and graphic arts, photography, and multimedia production.

Jason’s students design, film, and create the annual digital yearbook, as well as take photos of school events, and keep the school walls filled with artwork.  So get your drawing materials and cameras and free your artistic self!

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Petro Yakovchuk

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Petro Yakovchuk

MATHEMATICS

 

math@skyislands.org

Sky Islands proudly welcomes Petro Yakovchuk back for his second year. Petro studied physics at the Lviv State University in Ukraine, and has received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in applied mathematics and physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Russia. He received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Boston University in Massachusetts. Additionally he spent 7 years doing biochemical research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and has taught in Arizona at Mesa Community College, Brookline College, and BASIS Prescott. He was also a research scientist at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. Petro has published over a dozen scientific papers and one of them has been cited by other researchers almost 500 times. That’s a lot in the academic world—something to be really proud of!

Petro is an avid rock climber and can be found at the Catalinas or Tufa climbing the Homestead any weekend. At Sky Islands he will teach math—geometry, algebra 1 and 2—as well as applied physics. So get ready to have your math classes ‘rocked’ by Dr Y. Those of you who have experienced math anxiety or just think you can’t do math—think again. And get ready to climb that math wall!

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Steven Painter

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Steven Painter

SOCIAL STUDIES/ HISTORY

 

socialstudies@skyislands.org

Steve returns for his fourth year at Sky Islands.  He has a Masters’ degree from the University of Arizona and a BA from the University of New Mexico.  Steve has been a Teaching Assistant at the U of A, an Archival Intern at the Arizona Historical Society, and a reporter with the Woodward Newspaper in Oklahoma. He is the owner of Crucson Publishing in Tucson where he published his two novels, “Take Her for a Ride: A Hollywood Story” and  “Blonde Ash”.

Steve brings a strong narrative approach to teaching history and experience doing historical research and journalism. He is a strong advocate of using film to teach history along with written texts and student research.

Steve’s classes include the core history classes, Film History, and a senior Journalism class that will draw on his work experience as a news reporter.  A good story teller, Steve makes history worth listening to.

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Allie Silber

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Allie Silber

SCIENCE / LANGUAGE ARTS

 

asilber@skyislands.org

Allie’s re-joining Sky Islands for a third year to bring a field studies component to our project-based science program and to bring a strong school garden experience. Allie has a BS from the University of Washington in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, attended the Teton Science School in Wyoming, and is working on her Master’s degree in Environmental Science at Prescott College. She has taught at the Academy of Math and Science in Tucson; Gann Academy in Massachusetts; and Aspen Community School in Santa Fe, where she created the school garden.   In Seattle Allie helped coordinate the Dream Project among high school students and worked with the children’s garden— Seattle Tilth.

Her experience extends to Israel, where she apprenticed at the Hava v’Adam Ecological Farm. As a field science teacher, Allie will provide a strong focus on site ecology, place-based and experiential coursework, and garden apprenticeships. With Mike Bagesse, she was responsible for coordinating the watershed project as part of the C2E grant award. Allie’s work in Santa Fe is presented in the book “It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden”. Allie is an avid hiker and camper and you could possibly run into her on a Tucson trail or, if lucky, backpacking across Utah!

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Joseph Mais

JMais

Joseph Mais

LANGUAGE ARTS

Bio coming soon!

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Glen Coffman

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Glen Coffman

CULINARY ARTS AND THEATER ARTS

The Blue Sky Café is pleased to welcome Glen Coffman as our new Teaching Chef!  Glen comes to us with 25 years’ experience cooking and menu planning that includes supervising student kitchen crews.  He was the Executive Chef at the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, so expect a Bon Appétit menu for lunches that will bring you back for seconds.  Additionally, Glen has trained as a pastry chef at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in North Beach, San Francisco, and rumor has it that Glen makes the best cookies in the world.

Glen has a B.A. in English and Theatre Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and an M.A. in Theater Studies from the University of Arizona.  He also studied with the Actor Training Program at Herbert Berghof Studios in New York.  Glen is a Founder of Winding Road Theater Ensemble in Tucson, where he has directed numerous plays, including in part, Death of a Salesman, and August: Osage County, where he won the 2013 Mac Award Nomination, Best Director and Best Drama.  He has also directed productions at Invisible Theatre, Live Theatre Workshop, Beowulf Alley Theatre, Borderlands Theater, and with the UA Theater Department.

So add directing the Blue Sky Café to Glen’s long list and enjoy the cookies.

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Alexandra Berger

CBD mug shot

Alexandra Berger

ANIMAL STUDIES

 

We met Alex at the Community Food Bank this year, and are very proud to welcome her to the Sky Islands’ team.  Alex taught the Community Food Bank Garden Program workshop on raising chickens that launched our new chicken program.  She comes to us with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Studio Art from Oberlin College (2004), and that included a semester abroad in Cairns, Australia studying Natural Ecology / Marine Biology.  Alex is a Certified Master Gardener with UA Coop Extension, and has worked locally with Tucson Organic Gardeners, Maggie’s Farm, the Center for Biological Diversity, and as a garden contractor with the Community Food Bank.

One of the new upper level classes this year is Animal Studies, also known as the ‘chicken class’. But it will be that and so much more.  Alex will include not only the basics of caring for and raising chickens, but students will also design and help build the chicken coop and habitat, learn about the relations between human and non-human animals, and study the ethical responsibilities and ecological effects.  Another side of Alex—she is the owner of Plart, Plants + Art, and has worked in the glass arts for 8+ years.  Next year—a Sky Islands’ glass class?

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Ray Clamons

Ray – at comfort station-Cropped

Ray Clamons

ARCHITECTURE + LANDSCAPE DESIGN / BUILD

 

Ray Clamons worked with the 2017 senior physics class to install Sky Islands’ first cistern—at 2800 gallons—to harvest water for the Heritage Orchard on campus.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Arizona, School of Architecture, and is the founder of Natural Building Works and Xylon Designs.  In addition Ray holds certifications in sustainable building, rainwater and greywater harvesting, and permaculture design. He is a key organizer of the Tucson Emerging 2030 District, a non-profit collaborative that is working to reduce the environmental impact of buildings.

At Sky Islands this year Ray will be introducing a Design/Build class as component of the 9th grade sequence of classes, partnering with 2-Dimensional Design, Urban Horticulture, and Geometry.  Together those classes will provide a strong hands-on base in drawing, spatial analysis, and abstract thinking.  Expect to plan and build basic structures on site.  Another side of Ray–in addition to all this he also can be found playing drums with Tucson’s Grateful Dead Tribute band Top Dead Center.